Friday, September 16, 2005

Egypt Vs Japan

Egypt and Japan are poles apart - geographically, historically, culturally and politically. But lately, there has been a common point of reference: Both held elections that, different as their internal dynamics were, point toward changes that could affect both countries internally and, by extension, the regions they live in.

For a half-century, Egypt has been a military dictatorship in civilian garb. The ruling National Democratic Party is a tool of Hosni Mubarak's personal power, backed by a repressive security service. But this year, instead of the usual referendum to endorse his permanent rule, Mubarak, under heavy pressure from the US and internal movements for Change, let others challenge his bid for a fifth six-year term (5 * 6 = 30 years). The result was hardly democracy in action: The regime decided who could compete, how the campaign would be run and, most crucial, how the votes would be counted. Mubarak got 88.5 percent of the vote in an election whose low turnout - 23 percent officaill results - reflected Egyptians' understanding of what was afoot.


Still, there was sharp criticism by rival candidates of Mubarak's failure to raise living standards. One candidate - Ayman Nour - has become a popular national figure, and the neo liberals of the NDP (Gamal and Friends Inc.) felt compelled to resort to U.S.-style campaigning, complete with "I feel your pain" rhetoric. Egyptians got a glimpse of what democratic politics is about, and the regime may find it difficult to return to business as usual, as if nothing new had happened.

In Japan - paradoxically both a democracy and a virtual one-party state for a half-century - the ruling Liberal Democratic Party won as usual, but with a difference. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi cast off Japan's trademark consensus politics and campaigned against the reactionary barons of his own party, who had blocked his effort to privatize the state postal service, the world's largest financial institution that controls $3 trillion in assets used to dispense patronage to a range of interest groups. Voters embraced a reformist agenda that may go further than they realize in attacking a change-resistant system.

Whether Koizumi will be able to implement his plans, even with the strong majority the LDP won in the lower house, is uncertain. He has only a year left before party rules force him to step down, and retrograde forces are sure to resist. But he sees what many Japanese refuse to - that the country faces a demographic crisis, with an aging population and a low birth rate that could severely weaken the economy and make it even more difficult for Japan to manage its growing rivalry with China.

Another difference between the elections in Egypt and Japan is that Mubarak, despite his power, played it safe by making only cosmetic changes. Koizumi, by contrast, took what many saw as a reckless gamble by calling an early vote, attacking a segment of his own party and sticking to a single, controversial message - and won. Neither tactic guarantees future success. But Koizumi's is a lesson in hardball democracy that Egyptians would do well to study for the uncertain times ahead.

7 Comments:

At 3:57 PM, September 17, 2005, Anonymous Suguru Hirahara said...

I'm a Japanese. Your post is interesting for me in that you compared Mubarak, who is called a dictator, with Koizumi.

Many electorate in Japan regard him as "charisma", who help them somehow. However, almost nobody knows what he will do next the privatization.

This is my post on the reason why Koizumi could win the majority.

 
At 7:49 AM, September 29, 2005, Blogger El3en Elsehrya said...

Interesting analysis of what is happening in Egypt, it is a quite unbiased analysis but I may add a big difference, Japan Leader is a beleiever and real politician who uses the dynmaics and mechanisms that implement his ideas with a good faith for the best to his Country, Ours, Mubarak is literally an employee who is in a very high position who would like to keep his chair as much as possible because this is the best thing that he would ever imagined in his wildest imaginations.

 
At 7:49 AM, September 29, 2005, Blogger El3en Elsehrya said...

Interesting analysis of what is happening in Egypt, it is a quite unbiased analysis but I may add a big difference, Japan Leader is a beleiever and real politician who uses the dynmaics and mechanisms that implement his ideas with a good faith for the best to his Country, Ours, Mubarak is literally an employee who is in a very high position who would like to keep his chair as much as possible because this is the best thing that he would ever imagined in his wildest imaginations.

 
At 8:56 PM, October 03, 2005, Blogger Zeinobia said...

You know I studied this year comparison but Egypt and Japan from the historical point of view of why we didn't became like Japan despite we started our modern civilizaton together in 18th century
it is not about Mubarak or farouk or Zad and Abid but it is about the People whether the ruler or the people who are being ruled
Ya masry when a japenese minister does something wrong ,he kills himself
here they take the slogan 'the tribe is still moving , and moving and dogs are shouting '

 
At 7:20 AM, October 04, 2005, Blogger El3en Elsehrya said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:26 AM, October 04, 2005, Blogger El3en Elsehrya said...

I disagree with Zenobya, I do not think that there is somthing called difference in People.
People's reaction to certain situation is a function of their quality which is a function of a whole set of policies and systems imposed by the governing authority.
And try to imagine how an egyptian who does not follow any traffic rule would do if he had to drive in a western country, he will comply with rules sooner or later.
If you are interested, look up my little blog
www.almeezan.blogspot.com for an analysis on this topic

 
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